Your body is not the only thing that needs a good detox once in a while. When I mention detoxification, you probably think about something your body does to lose weight, support your liver, and generally feel and look better. Strange as it sounds, your kitchen could also use a good detox!
Most likely, the food industry holds your kitchen hostage. No doubt your cupboards and pantry are filled with ultra-processed fare. Detoxifying your kitchen allows you to escape these shackles and transform your kitchen to a place of wellness. A healthy kitchen provides the foundation for a healthy you.
If you make your kitchen a safe zone, with only foods that nourish rather than harm, then you will automatically make the right choices. If you fill it with crap, you will eat crap, no matter how much willpower you have.
The first step to detoxify your kitchen, then, is not to load it with junk and clear out whatever junk currently is stocking your cupboards. If it's not there, you won’t eat it. It’s that simple. If you have to get in your car and drive five miles, you'll probably skip that donut, cookie or ice cream. You are removing ways to unconsciously sabotage yourself.
I’ve created a three-step process to effectively detoxify your kitchen and restock it with healthy foods.
Step 1: Set aside an hour to purge your kitchen
Schedule it into your planner if you need to. This requires some detective work. Read food labels for added sugar and other junk ingredients that don’t belong in a healthy kitchen. Have a big garbage bag ready (better yet, recycle containers if you can) to dump the junk. It might take longer depending on how much hidden junk and toxic ingredients lurk in your cupboard or fridge.
Step 2: Scrutinize labels
Ideally, you’ll replace anything that is questionable with real fresh or whole foods without labels. A fresh avocado or a kiwi doesn’t come with a nutrition facts label, or a bar code or ingredient list. If you decide to keep foods with labels, follow these rules:
- Focus on the ingredient list, not the “nutrition facts” that are mostly designed and developed under huge food industry lobby efforts to confuse and confound your efforts to eat healthy.
- If you don’t recognize it, can’t pronounce it, it's in Latin or you don’t have it in your cupboard and you wouldn’t use it in a recipe – maltodextrin, for instance – then don’t use it.
- On every ingredient list, note that the most abundant ingredient is listed first. The others follow in descending order by weight.
- Be conscious of ingredients that may not be on the list. Some ingredients may be exempt from labels. Get rid of these foods.
- Beware of foods with health claims on the label. These claims usually signal a marketing ploy to make you think they’re good for you when they’re really just healthy pretenders. Things like sports beverages, energy bars, and even multigrain breads (which often contain high fructose corn syrup) fall into this category.
Step 3: Ditch These Foods
When you detoxify your body, you eliminate harmful toxins. Likewise, when you detoxify your kitchen you’ll want to get rid of any food that contains these harmful ingredients.
- You probably know obvious sugar culprits, but be aware of hidden sugars that lurk in salad dressings, processed foods, drinks, and even “healthy” foods like cereals and wheat. Sugar goes by many aliases. Just as boys named Andrew often go by Andy or Drew, sugar might be called organic cane juice, honey, agave, maple syrup, cane syrup, or molasses. There are 257 names for sugar, most made from corn with names that you wouldn’t recognize like maltodextrin and xanthan gum, which make you fat and addicted. Look carefully at condiments like salad dressing, barbecue sauce, or ketchup, which are often high-fructose corn syrup traps.
- Bad fats. Don’t be afraid of fat. Fat doesn’t make you fat, but the wrong fats can wreak serious metabolic havoc. Toss out any highly refined cooking oils such as corn and soy, fried foods you may have stored in your freezer, and margarine or shortening. These have dangerous trans fats that create inflammation and cause heart disease. Scour labels for the words “hydrogenated fat” (another phrase for trans fat), which has finally been declared not safe for consumption by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
- Artificial sweeteners. Throw out food with artificial sweeteners of all kinds (aspartame, NutraSweet, Splenda, sucralose, and sugar alcohols — any word that ends with “ol,” like xylitol or sorbitol). Stevia may be better than aspartame, but only whole plant extract, not Pure Via and Truvia, which are made by Pepsi and Coke and are chemical extracts of stevia. Use it sparingly. A new non-caloric sweetener that comes from monk fruit that is rich in antioxidants can also be used in small amounts. But remember, any sweetener can make you hungry, lower your metabolism, create gas, and store belly fat.
- Anything with ingredients you can’t pronounce. If you purchase something with a nutrition label, there should be less than five ingredients on it and all things that a third grader would understand like “tomatoes, water, salt.” Focus on the ingredient list, not the “nutrition facts,” which are mostly designed and developed under huge food industry lobby efforts to confuse and confound your efforts to eat healthy.
- Any potentially questionable food or ingredients. Seemingly safe foods like spices and seasonings can contain maltodextrin, autolyzed yeast extract, and even high fructose corn syrup that have no place in a healthy kitchen.